Obesity expert and professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. David Ludwig, argues that calorie counting is an ineffective and often detrimental weight loss tactic, in his new book “Always Hungry?” Instead of counting calories, he claims paying attention to the types of food we eat is far more essential in treating the root cause of obesity, which is the fact that after 40 years of eating the wrong foods our bodies are now in a cycle of cravings, hunger and bingeing.
The main enemies are high glycemic foods like sugar, refined grains and other processed carbohydrates; otherwise known as “fertilizer for fat cells”. Ludwig challenges conventional thought about weight loss in claiming that overeating is not what makes you fat and simply cutting back on calories is a “solution” that will actually make things worse. By cutting back on calories, you body actually responds by panicking, increasing hunger and slowing your metabolism in an effort to save calories. This creates a battle between your mind and metabolism that you will inevitably lose.
Obesity is often thought of as a state of excess, but in reality it is more similar to a state of starvation. On a biological level, the fat cells are storing too many calories where the brain doesn’t have access to enough to make sure the metabolism runs properly. So in an attempt to solve this problem, the brain makes us feel hungry and overeating is a temporary fix. But what happens is that the fat cells continue to take in too many calories and we get stuck in a vicious cycle of overeating and weight gain.
The most effective approach to this problem is to put biology on your side by eating the right way and letting weight loss naturally occur as a result. The low fat, high carbohydrate diet we’ve consumed over the last 40 years raised the level of insulin and programmed our fat cells to go into calorie storage overdrive. Insulin is the ultimate fat cell fertilizer. To swiftly lower insulin levels, cut back on processed carbohydrates and start getting the right balance of protein and fat in your diet.
The eating plan included in Ludwig’s book has three phases. First and foremost is giving up processed carbohydrates, added sugars and all grain products for two weeks. Instead, the carbohydrates you eat should be a range of non–starchy vegetables, fruits and beans. After two weeks, he reintroduces whole kernel grains, potatoes – except for white potatoes – and a little bit of added sugars. This is done until your weight comes down to a new, lower set point. It could be a few weeks for some and months for others, depending on the severity of the weight problem. Following this regimen which addresses the underlying drivers of weight gain will certainly show you the results you’ve been waiting for and set you up for success in the long term. It’s always better to have biology on your side.